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For unknown reasons, the BPCA that had been intentionally neglecting the Irish Memorial, refusing to even host St. Patrick’s Day events at the site, has suddenly shown an interest in it. They developed a smartphone app that shows visitors what the stones in the park represent, and they hosted a tour of the memorial today.
The man leading the tour was the architect, Brian Tolle. He designed it before September 11th, 2001, and the memorial was under construction when the towers fell. Shari Hyman, President of the BPCA, Robin Forst, community liaison for the BPCA, and Tessa Huxley of the parks conservancy were also in attendance.
Mr. Tolle told stories about the early days of the project before a small crowd at the base of the memorial. Unfortunately, Mr. Tolle’s voice was very quiet and no one in the crowd who was not up front could hear him. He proceeded to meekly whimper out words for 20-minutes, using the word “I” often, making the whole tour more about himself than the community or memorial. All the while, he was sipping from an iced coffee cup looking unprofessional.
One anecdote he told was how he was chosen to be the architect. He was sequestered in jury duty with the BPCA person making the decision, and they invited him at the last minute to draft up a proposal in less than a week. The design has been controversial ever since, with many critics who think it is confusing and ugly.
Mr. Tolle was astonishingly uninformed of basic events underway with the memorial too. He had no idea, for example, that Quinnipiac University is in talks to lease the memorial and use it as an outdoor teaching space. He was also unaware that the memorial is designated as a “park”, which provides some additional protection from real estate developers who would want to place a tower on the site, and he had no idea that members of the community had formed a “Friends of The Irish Memorial” twitter account and effort to save the memorial from decline.
Mr. Tolle was also a bit delusional about his power and control over the park. He stated, “I have an ironclad agreement that lets me control what happens here.”, meaning that the State of New York could not alter his designs without his permission. That was a naive statement, of course. The state and its BPCA could steamroll over the memorial and he would have little recourse, especially since he has no money to fight the legal battle.
In summary, it became a little more apparent why the Irish Memorial has been idle for years with no formal activities staking place. Not only has Dennis Mehiel and Shari Hyman’s BPCA been neglecting it, but the designer himself is clueless and out of the loop.